Adam Passed It Down

Institutes 2.1.5 – 2.1.8

In the early 2000’s, when my parents passed away, I inherited some furniture, old jewelry, some paintings, and their outstanding debt. But this wasn’t the first time I had ever inherited anything. When I was born in the early 1950’s, I inherited something from another “parent” by the name of Adam. It was original sin.

In the previous reading of the Institutes, Calvin taught us that the essential nature of sin is disobedience. Calvin spends this reading teaching us about original sin and how it has spread from Adam throughout humanity.

Calvin begins by saying that “As Adam’s spiritual life would have consisted in remaining united and bound to his Maker, so estrangement from him was the death of his soul.”

When Adam sinned, the image of God in which he had been created was effaced and he lost the godly wisdom, virtue, justice, truth, and holiness that were his in his original state. When he sinned, he “involved his posterity also, and plunged them (you and me) in the same wretchedness.”

This hereditary corruption is known as Original Sin, and is said by Calvin, to mean the deprivation of our natures that were “formerly good and pure.” It is, according to Augustine, “an innate corruption” that is ours “from the very womb.” (2.1.5)

In 2.1.6, Calvin writes that “…in regard to human nature, Adam was not merely a progenitor (a biological ancestor), but, as it were, a root, that, accordingly, by his corruption the whole human race was deservedly vitiated (debased morally).”

So, we do not sin because we choose to imitate Adam, like a child imitates his father’s mannerisms, we sin because it is our nature to sin.

It is here that Calvin quotes Scripture and contrasts Adam and Christ:

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned; even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:19-21)

Calvin’s comment on this is that ” … the righteousness of Christ, and thereby life … were lost in Adam that they might be recovered in Christ, whereas sin and death were brought in by Adam that they might be abolished in Christ.”

The discussion continues with a reference to I Corinthians 15:22 which says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.”

The phrase, “… in Adam all die …” is interpreted to mean “… that he by sinning not only brought disaster and ruin upon himself, but also plunged our nature into destruction; and that not only in one fault, in a matter not pertaining to us, but by the corruption into which he himself fell, he infected his whole seed.” If this were not true, Paul could never have said “that all are ‘by nature the children of wrath,’ (Eph.2:3) if they had not been cursed from the womb.”

Calvin expresses this in his typically unique way when he says, “from a corrupt root corrupt branches proceeding, transmit their corruption to the saplings which spring from them.” (2.1.7)

In 2.1.5, Calvin spoke of original sin and made a brief, yet, pointed comment about it. In the final section of this reading, 2.1.8, Original Sin is given more of a “textbook” definition.

Original sin, then, may be defined a hereditary corruption and depravity of our nature, extending to all parts of the soul, which first makes us obnoxious to the wrath of God, and then produces in us works which in Scripture are termed works of the flesh. (2.1.8)

The Bible teaches us that all are born with this sin nature, that we all come short of the glory of God. For this we deserve His holy wrath and punishment. We are also taught that God loves us and has proven this by the fact that He sent His only begotten Son to live a holy live and then give it on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins. That forgiveness of sins, a reconciliation to Holy God, and a new nature are ours by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.


When our third child was born, he was born with a birth defect. At some point in his development in his mother’s womb, the middle third of his cranio-facial structure stopped developing. When he came forth from the womb, he had a unilateral cleft palate and a unilateral cleft lip. The defect was classified as being moderate. He has had five surgeries, with a couple of more to go, but his condition is 100% correctable. In fact, even now, most people cannot tell he was born with an issue.

The doctors told us that cleft palates and cleft lips are a genetic defect. Since neither my wife nor I had the defect, it came down one of our family lines through us to our son. He inherited a defective gene.

When our son was born, he was born with another issue. It was not a material or physical defect; it was a spiritual issue. He was born with “original sin.” A sin nature inherited from Adam. This condition could not be corrected or remedied by surgeries or orthodonic appliances. It was only made right when, by the grace of God, our son came to know Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and Lord.

Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

(II Corinthinas 5:17)

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2 Comments on “Adam Passed It Down”

  1. matt Says:

    This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

  2. tangiblethoughts Says:

    Matt, thanks for your visit and comment.

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